Rahima Benhabbour has always been an advocate for women’s health issues. As an assistant professor in the UNC/NC State Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering and an adjunct professor at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, her passion is to develop innovative technologies that prevent HIV infections and other health conditions in women.
As fate would have it, watching a TED talk featuring global 3D printing company Carbon was the inspiration she needed to jumpstart her innovative idea. As she watched Carbon CEO and Chancellor’s Eminent Professor of Chemistry Joe DeSimone demonstrate his 3D printer on stage, her mind quickly turned. She began to wonder how she could apply 3D printing technology to intravaginal rings (IVR).
“I’m from north Africa. I’m a woman. The thought of helping women – some that don’t have a way of protecting themselves or controlling their lives – that’s my ultimate passion,” she says. “It’s a dream for me to give back.”
As she watched the 3D printer at work, Benhabbour saw how it could quickly print intricate features and asked herself, “What if we could add those intricate features to an IVR, customizing them for drug delivery?” And with that, AnelleO was born. An advocate for women’s health issues, Benhabbour wanted meaning behind the name for her startup. “Anelleo” means ring in Italian and Elle is “her” in French. The letter O represents the ring the company makes. All put together, it means “a ring for her.”
Rahima Benhabbour shown with her breakthrough product, AnelleO. Credit: Sarah Daniels